Cast your mind back, if you will, to November 27th 1999. I remember the date well because it was on our minds for months beforehand - mostly because of the General Election but also because it would be my friend Jazman's 21st birthday and she was going to be really pissed at Jenny Shipley, then PM, if she called the election for that date. She'd had to share her natal anniversary with general elections too many times, and having lots of friends and families interested in politics she really didn't want to be overshadowed on her 21st too. I recall vividly shuttling between her 21st in Tamaki and the Alliance party in Grey Lynn; from those who were mostly depressed about the inevitability of the end of nearly a decade of Tory power to those elated at the prospect of being part of the Government for the first time ever, and a centre-left Government at that.
But November the 27th was much more significant for the firsts that it enabled:
- First transexual MP in the whole entire world (and sadly still the only one I think)
- First time the NZ public had elected a female Prime Minister*
- First Rastafarian in the House
- First Polynesian woman MP
In some ways it seems hard now to imagine that these firsts were only a decade ago. Surely we've been ok with women in charge for years and years and years? Unfortunately some people are still not ok about it**, but I would hope that any future contenders for the prime ministerial role who happen to be female would not face all the barriers that Clark, and Shipley, did.
By 2019 what will we hope our Parliament looks like? It still fails the diversity test by many measures, although it is better than pre-MMP days. What firsts would you like to see occur between now and then?
* I don't want to get all hung up on Clark being the first elected female prime minister, and all the stuff that goes on around Shipley being the actual first first. Shipley's role was significant, and I don't deny that. However the reality for the NZ public voting on 27th November 1999 was that they knew the outcome would be a female PM. They hadn't known that was likely when they voted three years earlier.
** Anjum I wanted to put in here a link to the story you told once about the woman who came up to you at a stall somewhere saying it was unnatural to have a female PM, but I can't find it sorry!